Break Time

“Look at that.”

“Holy shit.”

The pool was empty. Patrons had cleared out half an hour ago, after the classic announcement of “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, the time is now eight o’clock, and the facility is closed for the evening, we hope you enjoyed your stay here at the Hunt Club Park Aquatic Center,” and the guards and the manager had followed shortly after. Everything was still and quiet, besides the quiet hum of the filters that kept the water circling after hours, making little ripples in the water. It always satisfied me how quickly it went from being noisy and full of movement – kids running, people running after their kids, guards running to change positions – to so empty and eerily quiet.

“We need to get a picture of that quick before it changes.”

“Our phones are up at the community center.”

“Pat’s isn’t.” Kayla flashed a playful glance at me and started skipping off to the men’s restroom to find Pat.

Red and orange beams of light were splashing across the sky, a little north of due west. Lavender clouds stretched themselves out across the sky, and were a cute shade of baby-pink where the diminishing sunlight hit them. The air smelled like chlorine and sand, and I could feel a thin layer of Apriza still on my hands from scrubbing sinks and trash can lids all day, a thin layer that never really got washed off, no matter how much of that crappy “foaming hand/body shampoo” I used. Sarah had scolded me a couple times for never wearing gloves, but I hated the powder inside them far more than the lingering smell of peroxide.

“Pat, we’re going on an adventure!” I could hear Kayla’s yelling echoing through the restroom. “And we need your phone!”

“What?”

Kayla came skipping back into the breezeway between the parking lot and the pool with her ponytail bouncing and a smug little grin on her face. “He’s coming.”

Pat came around the corner, walking and not skipping, like Kayla, and glanced at me cautiously. “You need my phone?”

“Yes.”

“Do you need a picture of something?”

“Yes.”

“What?”

I gestured behind me. “That.”

Pat shifted his gaze upward slightly. “And how are we going to get a picture of that?”

“By climbing to the top of the tower!” Kayla started bounce-running towards the stairs that lead up to the platform where the park’s three water slides had their beginnings.

Pat smiled and shook his head, making his bangs shake against his brow. “Well Sarah’s gone, and none of the other guys would rat us out or anything.”

“Exactly.”

Pat and I started walking towards the stairs, the sound of our light footsteps and the soft shush of the seams of his pants rubbing together (I never knew why he always chose to wear jeans in the middle of summer) only slightly filling the silence.

“Get up here before the sun goes down!”

“Aw, the hell with it.” Pat took his phone out of his pocket so it wouldn’t drop and started sprinting towards the stairs.

I followed him, jogging at first, then speeding up into a sprint when he got farther ahead of me. I pounded up the concrete steps, taking one step at a time while Pat took two or three. By the time I reached the top, my legs felt like they would fall out from under me and my throat burned and by breath was hot and tasted like blood. I braced my arms against the railing at the top of the tower just breathing and watching the orange sun turn redder with each passing moment. I knew my face was flushed, and that my panting was surely the most attractive thing that ever came out of my mouth, but I didn’t care. The adrenaline that came from running around with my coworkers when we were supposed to be hosing down the men’s room showers by now was exhilarating. I could hear Pat and Kayla making some sort of small talk about school starting soon, and the light shutter sound of Pat’s phone camera going off a few times.

The sun dipped below the horizon made by the distant tree line, and the sky quickly turned purple, and then a deep royal blue, dotted with a few diamond stars. The three of us had squished ourselves to sit on the top step leading up to the tower, and Pat and Kayla were talking about superheroes or foreign movies or something else I didn’t particularly care for. I just set my hands back on the rough concrete behind me and looked up at the stars, only slightly faded by the orange lampposts on the pool deck below, and I realized how small I really was, risking getting reprimanded yet again while just trying to get a picture of a huge ball of burning hydrogen a few million miles away.

Once we had figured that we should probably get back to work, we stepped down each step back down to ground level, where we discovered Anthony and Jake waiting for us in the maintenance closet, a little impatiently.

“Where were you guys?”

Pat gave me a sideways smile. “Just on an adventure.”